Monday, December 29, 2008

Time to Wrap It Up

It's been over a week since I got back and I'm still terribly jet lagged. Usually at 7 pm I feel like my body weighs a ton and my eyelids are half of that weight. I have been having evening naps just because I am would otherwise fall asleep at my computer or in front of the TV. That's what being old must feel like. :D

Ever since I got back, I have seen the world a little differently. Cars look older here, I notice old buses that no one would voluntarily get into in San Diego, some buildings have crumbling walls. But also, buildings have character, each street looks unique, most of the trees look like people built the houses between the trees not the other way around. It's cold here but I don't really mind. I have all my winter coats and things here.

Sand belongs on the slippery ice not in the pile with tunnels inside!

Besides, I can get a warm mug of Glögg whenever I want. People drink obviously more in Estonia. I'm mostly sad that cider has alcohol in it. All casual events are with alcohol. I didn't really notice alcohol at all in San Diego anymore but here I often have thoughts like, "Wine DOES sound good right now. oh wait. I'm pregnant. Never mind...". It doesn't cause stress, but it's just one of the differences.

One thing has definitely changed - I don't avoid grocery shopping so desperately. I used to be happy to leave this task to my husband. In exchange I stayed at home and washed the dishes ... that I had made. No but really. When I wasn't at home, the apartment was constantly clean and there was no mess anywhere. When I got home, it was all messy again. Well, it's not horribly bad, but I seem to be a true dish-generator. I have been washing all the dishes once or twice each day, but there's still a few plates lying around. I wish we had room for a dishwasher.

But I was talking about grocery shopping. I used to avoid it as if the store clerks had the plague. They're really unfriendly and I don't like to be in a store. Now I almost volunteer to get groceries. If I go shopping myself, I get to buy all the things I have been craving. Also, I get to leave all the things I've started to dislike since pregnancy. I was pretty much bored with our menu anyway. The only problem is that even when pregnant I am less picky about food than my husband so I always have to get something that he would definitely eat. And don't think, "pffff, everyone knows pregnant women eat all the time and anything they get their hands on!". That's not true. Pregnant women eat ridiculous amounts of certain things but they're really picky about food in general. "This smells funny. This has a weird color. This feels different."

Now I'm very pregnant already. I have a huge round belly. Each time I walk past a mirror I stop. Then I try to adjust my shirt so it doesn't show my stomach as disproportionally huge. Hopeless. I even try to adjust my posture. Then I call out to my husband, "Erkki! Honey, it's been growing AGAIN!".

I still eat oranges and these really ARE different. Oranges in Estonia are mostly imported from Spain. When it comes to quality, most places sell the best oranges you could get in San Diego. No one bothers to transport ugly green oranges. The difference between Spanish and Californian oranges is the texture. Spanish oranges have really thin membranes between slices so they're really messy to peal and pull apart. The fastest and least messy way to eat them is to peal them and then cut up into bite-size pieces. This generates 1 knife, one cutting board, and one bowl worth of dirty dishes but it's worth it.

Spanish oranges also look like there's tiny oranges inside

Yap yap yap... I'm totally getting side tracked here. What I really wanted to say with this blog post is that I'm already back in my routine life of messing up the apartment, being paranoid about how loosely my clothes fit and eating lots of Spanish oranges. My trip to San Diego is over, hence, this blog is over. It is time to wrap it up.

Thank you everyone who's been reading the blog. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have written it. I have to admit I've had a really fun time blogging and making pictures I otherwise wouldn't have made - like a picture of a cereal box or a picture of Oreo cookies. I'm really glad I wrote all those blog posts.

Blogging seems to be something that suits me. Now that this blog has ended, I have started another blog: Being A Parent With a Life. That blog is about pregnancy and about preserving my life after I have a kid. It will hardly have posts like, "AWWWW IT DROOLED ALL OVER THE PLACE! HOW CUTE!". Like, ewwwww! No! It will be about NOT changing into a typical mother who can't do anything but talk about the stupid things their kids do. The new blog will be weekly and probably a bit more feminine because pregnancy and taking care of a baby tends to be! No icky stuff, but I don't want really vague talk either. I'll find a balance. I don't think it will gross guys out, but I suppose women are more likely to actually look for such information on the Internet, so I assume the average reader will eventually be around 25 yo female planning to have kids or just comparing with their own experiences. No point in planning ahead too much though. I'll start blogging and I'll see where it ends up.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Ah, Home At Last

I spent three nights at my parents home. They live pretty close to the airport and it was Christmas! There was a lot of stuff going on, a lot of people I hadn't seen in a while, and a lot of food that I hadn't eaten in a while. It's not like I was starving in US! I just hadn't eaten boiled potatoes sprinkled with dill, pork seasoned and well cooked in an oven, blood sausages with cranberry jam (not odd cranberry jello stuff), mottled dog cake (kirjukoerakook! ) and this year's addition: marinated home-made lamper eels.

It wouldn't be OUR Christmas tree without the clashing colors

There was only a little bit of snow in Tallinn and Viimsi (peninsula near Tallinn) but when I finally saw Tartu, my current home town, I saw thick white snow covering all the lawns and sideroads. The streets here looked SO SMALL! There seemed barely enough room for two cars side by side. I think my perception is skewed after all those 8-lane roads.

Barely any snow in Viimsi at Christmas

Me and Erkki (dearest husband) got some late evening food from a gas station. So what is the first thing to buy after such a long time? YOGURT! Good fresh Estonian yogurt with bits of fruit and 2,5% fat. Well, fresh only in the sense that it's fresh-tasting, as yogurt is by definition sour milk created after specific fermentation process. But it was so good. I casually drank almost an entire liter of it.

I have to admit I'm very glad to be home. It was nice in the sunny California but it just wasn't Estonia there. It's the small things. When we were at the gas station I noticed that they sell only one kind of milk and it's simple 1-liter carton of 2,5% milk. It wasn't 1-gallon (3,8 liters) A and D vitamin added fat free "milk" buy two get third for free. I also discovered that my home looks much better than I remembered. I knew it looked good even earlier but when I walked in, I noticed the comfortable-looking (nice illusion) couch, wide screen monitors, all that open space, large windows, Xbox, MY COMPUTER!!!! I'm home! Nice feeling.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thirty Four after Three

So basically yesterday was a LONG day. And I don't mean it as a simple typical exaggeration that you would constanty hear from girls. I mean I had a REALLY LONG DAY! Well, it started with me sleeping 3 hours and getting up at 3.40 am to make sure I don't miss my flight. And it ended a few timezones away and 34 hours later. Yes you got it - I was up 34 hours straight.

My flights were horribly planned by the travel agent with as small time gaps as she could find. "Disaster," I said when I saw the flight schedule the first time. "How does she expect me to catch a flight Within 1 hour 10 minutes on 23rd of December in one of the biggest airports in Europe, in Stockholm Arlanda airport?". As a flight planner she should have known that the second and the third flight were by companies who don't have any contract together. So she should have known that I would aslo have to take out my luggage, check it back in and go throught the security gate. Should have, but didn't, because she was a moron.

Ah why bash someone with no context... As I told you guys yesterday, my first flight with Continental was delayed one full hour. But as Continental is by far the coolest airplane company, they arrived to the next airport with very little delay. Then I got on the second Continental airplane and they took off also with a huge delay, I think even more than an hour. And again, they arrived with very little delay, only about 20 minutes. I went to get my luggage. I was standing and waiting, looking at all those people pulling their suitcase off the luggage conveyer belt and mine just wouldn't come. Some of the luggage that was from our plane did almost ten rounds there. Time was ticking and by the time my suitcase finally appeared it was obvious I wouldn't make it. My plane was already departing.

Some parts of the airport looked abandoned

I missed my plane, bought a new ticket for $400 and waited 8 hours for the plane. I couldn't just sleep there because I didn't want to leave my stuff unguarded. That wasn't what bothered me. Usually airplane companies take responsibility for getting the passenger on the next plane, but not when the different flights are by different companies with no contract. I basically had two different reservations made - first from San Diego to Stockholm via two planes and like a totally seperate trip from Stockholm to Tallinn. If I don't get on the next flight it's my own responsibility. Fortunately I had travel insurance so they will refund me for the ticket because Continental plane was 20 minutes late. I feel bad for that - I would really blame it all on the lady who thought 1 hour 10 minutes was enough to get off the plane, get luggage, check in luggage, go through security check and go through the right gate. And unless I learn to teleport, I would also have to walk to all of those places. Sorry lady, no superpowers yet!

8 hours is a long time. It was freezing cold outside so I couldn't stay there more than 10 minutes. Indoors was nice as well. Finally the plane came and I got home. Altogether 29 hours of travel and 34 hours of being awake. It was good to finally be reunited with my husband. I missed him. I could finally show how much my stomach had grown. I could finally hug him.

Candle light lunch with my husband in Olde Hansa restaurant in Tallinn

And so I don't forget... Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fun of Flying

"Oh if I look as pregnant as I am, everyone will just happily escort me through the security!" Oh and THEY DID! "Excuse me mam, please follow me for extra security check." :D Hehe, fortunately it wasn't too bad. They just skanned everything I had and they had a cool weird cotton swab that the security lady put into a cool machine that detected explosives. I hadn't seen that one yet.

My flights are extremely tightly packed! The first gap is 1 hour 24 minutes and the second gap is 1 hour 10 minutes. Basically, if I miss a flight, I'm in trouble! Or actually not in trouble - I have full travel insurance for missed flights and as I've never been stranded in a foreign airport, I bet it will be a lot of fun. Especially because it's so close to Chrismas and the airport is full!

And fun it might be since the first flight was 40 minutes delayed. I am very happy that most of my flights are with the same company and also because that company is Continental. I have a very good opinion about them already because I really enjoyed their customer service on my way to San Diego. They checked my luggage all the way to Stockholm and they announced that they have checked and everyone will make their connecting flight. This might mean that once I get off the plane I will be escorted to the next plane by Continental workers but we'll see. I'm quite curious as to how I'll get home at the planned time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Day in Paradise

I'm all packed and ready to go to sleep. I'm not sure if I'm sleepy but I'm waking up at 3.40 and the airport shuttle will pick me up at 5 am. I'd rather sleep 30 minutes less than be in a hurry in the morning. If I have to leave in a hurry I will start to make mistakes. I might forget something here or lock a suitcase in the apartment or something stupid like that.

So how to spend the last day in a place like this... I deliberately slept in to get rest before my long travel. Then I had breakfast - I will miss the vanilla-almond granola with natural dried strawberries and Lucern's milk. Then I looked outside and saw that it's a beautiful sunny day. It was supposed to be cloudy and 16 degrees, but the sun was so warm, so I went out sunbathing. Nice excuse to read my book as well! When I was all warm and getting red two and a half hours later, I went for a walk and got myself a morning coffee - peppermint mocha twist at Starbucks. It's one of their holiday specials that I tried once before and really enjoyed.

But then I got busy and active. I packed, I did laundry, I vacuumed the carpets, I cleaned my sink, I organized what I'm leaving behind for the roommate. Quite a lot of stuff, but it would have been stupid to try to consume everything before I go. There's toothpaste, macaroni, my precious sandwich bags, peppermint tea, a couple of cans of vegetables (e.g. crushed tomatoes), etc.

Then I packed some more and saw that I have a lot of room left over in my luggage and I'm no where near the weight limit. I RULE for accomplishing that! I thought I'd have trouble fitting everything in my one suitcase! I'm leaving behind a pair of heavy $6 sandals that hurt my feet and I'm leaving with less cosmetic stuff than I came with. I'm taking the valuable stuff, but I have no reason to take the half-empty bottles that I brought here all the way from Estonia.

Seeing all that extra space in my suitcase gave me a good healthy grin - CANDY! I can fill all that space with American sweets! So I went shopping for the last time and I bought just about as much candy as I could possibly fit in the suitcase. Now I really hope that the airport doesn't lose the luggage and I can bring all those sweets home to share with my brothers and sisters. Foreign candy might taste just as good as all other candy, but it's foreign so it's special! I'm sure they'll be delighted.

Will Miss vs. Not Gonna Miss

Will Miss: Friendly people. I was surprised that people actually hold the door open if you're right behind them - in Estonia they often just smack the door in your face if you're not paying attention. Here they say "have a good day" with a smile that looks like they actually mean it. In Estonia, they say it very casually because they know, and you know, that they are just being polite.

Sleep time. :) Good night - long journey ahead.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Zorro Land

I finally made it to Old Town today. It wasn't at all what I expected. I thought it would look like something out of a horror movie - you know - cool old American houses with carved windowsills and decorative balconies. What I saw was VERY different from this vision. Basically, it was like old Mexico!

I bet they didn't warn people that smoking kills

I should have known! When I was in LA, Rachel showed me the place where Zorro had been active. It looked exactly like the town from Zorro series and movies. Oh, I can't remember if it was a historic fact or maybe she said "character Zorro"... It would be extremely simple to check it up on Google. Right now I just prefer to think that OF COURSE Zorro was real! Of course he was really saving Mexicans from the evil American culture. I'm kinda glad he failed, otherwise there would just be one giant Tijuana where San Diego is (Tijuana is the Mexican city across the border just south of San Diego) and LA would also be part of Mexico. That would mean all of Hollywood would either not exist or ALL of our favourite blockbusters would be in Spanish!!!!! So YAY to Zorro, real or not, for failing!

Old Town - designed especially for souvenir shoppers

I'm so cold right now. Last few nights I haven't slept that well and today I spent as much time as possible being outside. Quite a bad timing really. Yesterday I felt a bit under the weather, so today I should have stayed in and rested a lot. But I can't just sleep in the apartment when there's still stuff I want to do. And it really is cold here - today it was 14 degrees. During noon I was walking around in short sleeves but later I wished there was any place that would sell me a warm glass of Glögg.

Will Miss vs. Not Gonna Miss

Will Miss: Sandwich bags. Simple small zip lock bags (15x17cm) that fit one sandwich or half of a huge onion or cut-up chicken good for one meal. It's just such a convenient small thing and here they have a big selection of them. I'm really debating if I should fit a couple of boxes in my luggage but it's just plastic bags, right?

Will Miss: Apple cider. Just simple non-alcoholic natural cider. It's not even expensive. As it turns out, drinking is cheap when it's all non-alcoholic. Well, except for fruit smoothies of course.

Will Miss: using the trip as an excuse to eat junk food. "But I'm in USA and we don't have IHOP (International House of Pancakes) in Estonia! And if I really visit IHOP only once in my life, I have to get something really good.

It tasted as good as it looks or maybe even better!

Not Gonna Miss: local pizza! They just don't know what a pizza is! It's a thin layer of dough and a lot of topping. They have it all wrong here - a REALLY thick crust and some topping on it. You get full from all the white bread and the cheese is for flavor. In Estonia, in any pizza-place worth visiting, pizza is thin crust with lots of toppings and a LOT of cheese. You get full from all that cheese and meat not from pointless white bread.

Will Miss: local burgers: healthier and a lot tastier than the ones in Estonia. More meat, less bread, and NO CABBAGE!!!

Not Gonna Miss: mixed selection supermarkets. I don't like seeing sweets sold everywhere throughout the supermarket. It's too easy to put something unhealthy in the shopping cart.

No More Beer

Said good-bye to everyone in the lab today. It was kinda sad to go knowing I will never come back. Many cool people here I will definitely miss. In the evening we went out drinking beer for the last time with the rest of the Germans - "the rest" because one went back to Germany and two are traveling to see other parts of USA. Actually it's no longer fair to say I was out with Germans because it was me (Estonian), Katrin who is German and one guy who is Dutch. Three people from three different countries - basically this time I was out with the international group. Was fun like always but unfortunately this was the last time I'll see them in San Diego.

Nice Mexican style place

I tried eggnog. It usually has alcohol in it but I got the non-alcoholic kind. It tastes like warm egg-vanilla cream (keedukreem) commonly used in Estonia with certain sweet pastries. I suppose it's like a cross between that cream and regular cream liqueur (eg. Bailey's). I kinda liked it. I understand why people would drink that but it will be a while before I actually try making that in Estonia.

I found a new book! Third now. After I finished the first book, I went to the bookstore and carefully selecting something else. I then bought the second book. After 2 pages I was feeling hesitant, after 20 pages I was rolling my eyes and after 100 pages I decided that staring out the window playing with my hair would preserve more of my brain cells. I talked with my husband about it and he has read it. It's only the second book in a 7-book series and that's why the main character is such a pointless whimpering wussy. I would have started with 6th book had I known that sooner. The book got 4.5 from 5.0 max points and I hated it.

Cover reminded me of Assassin's Creed which I liked to play on Xbox

Well, I went back to the bookstore and took A LOT of time to find a book I would actually enjoy and I found one - The Way of Shadows! The 11 year-old main character who is mostly scared and helpless is more of a man than the 20 year-old main character in the previous book. I've read 30 pages and I'm hooked! If I can't get the remaining two books of the trilogy here I'll order them from Amazon the next time my husband is ordering books online.

Will Miss vs. Not Gonna Miss

Will Miss: The amount and selection of fast food restaurants. There's ones for those who want meat and beer (FuddRuckers. PS! If you initially read it wrong, you're not the only one! ), there's the ones that serve pancakes (IHOP), then there's Chinese fast food (Panda Express), Mexican fast food (Taco Bell), decent quality burgers (Carl's Jr) and the really bad cheap burgers (McDonald's). If you think it's the entire list, you're mistaken. The real list goes on and on.

Many good random restaurants that I visited later turned out to be a part of some fast food chain. Remember my really cool burger experience in down town during my first or second week - well that was FuddRuckers. Wednesday me and Rachel seeked rain shelter there and I had a buffalo burger. "What's in it?" - "Buffalo meat" - I thought those were on the verge of extinction and strictly protected by law. Oh wow, they actually sell buffalo burgers here. "Yes! That's what I want to eat!". Tasty stuff. Tasted similar to beef.

Not Gonna Miss: people assuming I will eat things with my hands. I mean, I'd love to follow the local table manners but if they bring a huge burger that will collapse just after looking at it then why should I also try to lift the entire thing. My mouth isn't big enough to take a good bite. Oh I did get some weird looks for eating a burger with a fork and knife. Some eyes just said, "Weird European!".

Will Miss: Palm trees and flowers. Ah, the smell of fresh nature! Real nature, not the thing hidden under snow or cold mud. Walking in an Eucalyptus grove always makes me take deep breaths of sheer enjoyment. Some of the decorative flowers in random gardens have a sweet fragrance when you walk by. Here everything smells almost like late spring in Estonia - everything's blooming and oh so sweet!

Not Gonna Miss: Megastreets. Here it's 6 lanes minimum, usually more like 10. And the streets are so empty! Seems like there's about the same amount of cars as in Tallinn or Tartu, but the cars have more room. Honestly, I think I'd love to drive on a street where I can choose between 7 lanes all going in the same direction but being a pedestrian crossing that street is not half as nice. Especially with the other direction also having 7 lanes.